Song 108: Ben Folds Five, “Don’t Change Your Plans” (1999)

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As a kid who was obsessed with Billy Joel and Elton John, I was amazed and delighted when Ben Folds Five broke big. A guy playing piano is all over MTV! I am cool!

Ben Folds once called his band “punk rock for sissies,” which explains why I was able to get on board. Even their harder-edged tracks, like “Song For the Dumped,” have a pop melody that contrasts with the fuzzed-out bass.

I loved their first two albums, but it was their third record, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, that I listened to most. It’s kind of a weird record, with spoken-word interludes and flugelhorns, but in a lot of ways, it’s as accessible as anything else the band did. “Don’t Change Your Plans” is as catchy as catchy songs get, and I’ve always been amazed that it wasn’t more popular. And lines like “You have made me smile again/In fact I might be sore from it/It’s been a while” resonated with me when a tough year was finally getting easier. Spring had officially arrived, and along with it came my college’s month-long short semester, which I spent taking a jazz guitar class and starting my college radio career with a 2-5 a.m. shift. I was having a great time.

Of course, like many of the songs on Reinhold Messner, “Don’t Change Your Plans” doesn’t end well, but that didn’t bother me. All I wanted was a little sweetness, a little glimpse of sunshine after a harsh Maine winter. The kids rocked out to “Army” (and rightly so), but this song was what I wanted.

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